As I get older, I start to have trouble attaching names to every stray scrap of music lodged in my brain.
And sometimes it drives me crazy.
For at least weeks, and maybe even months, I’ve been struggling to come up with the name of a song stuck in my head.
What made the task difficult was that I couldn’t remember most of the song — no melody, no chorus, no words.
All I remembered was the absolute very end. The last few seconds. A final melancholy lingering chord, topped by one last pizzicato “bing.”
I could hear it clearly, and it summoned up a particular sort of sun-going-down-on-a-cold-day kind of mood.
But I couldn’t identify it by name. And I couldn’t describe it well enough to ask anyone else to help me name it, either.
(I also had a vague sense that it was a relatively old song — Sixties sometime; woulda sounded good on an AM radio. But that didn’t really help in any concrete way.)
To add insult to injury, I actually remembered the name of the freaking song in the middle of a nighttime run a couple of weeks ago. But by the time I got home I’d let it out of my head again. (My thoughts, they are many and wayward.)
I thought perhaps this final chord and its pizzicato benediction would accurse me forever.
But the name came back to me earlier tonight. I have beaten the earworm, with at least a few shreds of my sanity still intact.
And the elusive chord belongs to …
I owned “The Soft Parade” on vinyl back in high school (still do, in fact), and I remember liking “Wishful Sinful” somewhat more than the other songs on the album.
Revisited all these years later, I’m not so convinced. Jim Morrison’s vocal delivery is at its loungiest, and Ray Manzarek and Robby Krieger are as good as absent once the orchestra comes in.
I still like the chorus, though. John Densmore snaps into a sort of jazzy march, the studio bass player plays a propulsive walking bass line, the orchestra swells like the tide, and Morrison wakes up a little bit (“Wishful, sinful, wicked blue / Water covers you…”)
That chorus — or maybe it was the plangent oboe solo — helped lift an otherwise bittersweet and rather mopey song to No. 44 on the national charts.
The invaluable ARSA database shows the song getting respectable but not overwhelming radio play nationwide between March and May of 1969, including a top 5 placement in St. Charles, Missouri, and a brief appearance on a local top 40 here in Allentown.
Wonder how many Top 40 jocks talked right over that magic final chord, thus saving their listeners from months of obsession 20 years later?
Would that someone had done me the same favor.